Fourth-Place Finish for Sailing on Road

For a squad that has practiced as little on the water as the No. 5 Harvard women’s sailing team, a fourth-place finish in a major regatta is no grounds for concern.

“I definitely look at this as a very positive start, and we’re only going to get better, because we haven’t had any practice,” junior captain Sloan Devlin said. “If we’re only going up, this is a great place to start.”

Harvard finished fourth in a 14-team field at the Navy Spring Women’s regatta, an intersectional fleet racing regatta drawing competitive teams from the length of the East Coast, Ann Arbor, and Berkeley. Sailing at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., the Crimson matched Flying Junior and 420-class dinghies with eight of the top 10 and 11 of the top 15 teams in the country.

Among those were Southern teams that can practice year-round and teams which had just returned from practice-laden spring breaks—unlike Harvard.

“We came in with hardly any expectations,” Devlin said. “We’ve been on the Charles once for practice.”

The Crimson’s lack of practice surfaced in a lack of consistency in individual races, if not in final results for the regatta. With Devlin skippering and sophomore Christina Dahlman at crew, Harvard’s A-division dinghy trailed only Old Dominion and Yale to take third. Devlin and Dahlman won the ninth race and finished second in three more, but did not enjoy the tight grouping of finishes to which they are accustomed.

“I’m usually a consistent sailor…and at least for the first part of this regatta, I was up and down and hall over the place,” Devlin said. “We had some good races and some races we could have done better in.”

Junior Jess Baker skippered the Crimson’s B-division boat, which was crewed by sophomore Emily Simon. The duo finished eighth in the B-division, with 101 points to division-winner Brown’s 47.

“I think that considering that a lot of other teams have been practicing and we haven’t, this is pretty good,” Baker said.

Baker and Simon hit a patch of rough luck in races 9-11, the first two of which they finished in 10th place and in the last of which they finished 11th.

“We were pretty up and down the whole regatta,” Baker said. “I struggled a lot with the starts, but when I had good starts, we did managed to do pretty well.”

Brown finished only fifth in the A-division, but a three-win showing in the B-division let the Bears edge the College of Charleston for first place in the regatta. Under skipper and three-time singlehanded national champion Anna Tunnicliffe, Old Dominion University never finished out of the top 10 in the A-division, winning four races. With a weak performance from its B-division, however, the Monarchs finished eighth overall in the regatta.

Shifty breezes greeted sailors on Saturday, and such conditions are usually a boon to Harvard, which practices in the fickle urban winds of the Lower Charles basin. After sailing 10 races on Saturday, competitors completed the final four on Sunday in strong current, with which the Crimson does not usually have to contend in practice.

“I don’t think we particularly struggled with [the current], but it was another factor we had to take into account,” Baker said. “It was more noticeable on Sunday because we had a few races where the wind was really light and we weren’t moving much faster than the current.”

The conditions that really affected Harvard this season were the icy waters that delayed the team from practicing .

“We need to work on boat handling and starting—I had a lot of problems getting up to the starting line this regatta,” Devlin said. “The good news is that both Jess and I had fairly good boat speeds. Starting and boat handling can come from practice.”

—Staff writer Samuel C. Scott can be reached at sscott@fas.harvard.edu.

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